Tag Archive | Listen

A Long Talk with My Dog – the best way to begin the New Year.

Floey looking at camera

Floey jumped down from the couch, stretched her whole body, and sauntered over to me. I was sitting at my desk. She plopped herself down right next to me. But instead of resuming her nap, she looked up at me and asked, “What are you doing, Mom? You look like you’re just staring off into space. What’s on your mind?”

“I’m just thinking about something I said, or rather, didn’t say yesterday, and I kind of regret the conversation.”

“Who were you talking with?”

“I went downtown for a haircut late yesterday afternoon.”

“Yeah. I remember. You took me out for a really quick walk, and then you left. Were you talking with the person who cuts your hair?”

“Yes. She cuts my hair really fast – like in ten minutes. But despite her cutting speed, she likes to talk with me the whole time she’s cutting. I don’t know how she can concentrate on getting my hair cut right, but somehow she does.”

“I wish my groomer was fast like that. She always takes at least 45 minutes, but she gives me a bath, blows me dry, trims the hair around my ears and paws, and gives me a pedicure. She talks to me, too, but I know she’s concentrating really hard on everything she does to me. At least she ends the grooming session with a really good treat. Do you get a treat?”

“No, Floey, I don’t.”

“That’s too bad. Well, what are you regretting about your conversation with your haircutter?”

“We really don’t know each other very well, and our conversations are usually just typical small talk – the weather, how our dogs are doing, any new restaurants we’ve tried, and so on. Yesterday she asked me if I have any goals for this new year. I told her no.”

“You don’t make New Year’s resolutions any more, so you don’t have goals, do you?”

“Well, sort of. Six years ago I changed from making New Year’s resolutions to choosing a special word to concentrate on all year long. The first special word I chose was JOY. Every day in 2014 I thought about finding JOY somewhere in the day. I loved the positive energy that came from finding JOY throughout the whole year. The next year I chose the word GRATITUDE. That was just as inspiring. In 2016, my word was KINDNESS. The next year was HOPE. And last year my word was PEACE. Every year has been really special by having a deliberate focus.”

fullsizeoutput_200f“I remember, Mom, in January of 2015, shortly after you adopted me, you explained “special words” to me, and as a young pup of less than a year old, I chose my first special word – LEARN, because I was going to concentrate on learning all I could to become the best companion to our residents that I could be. Remember, Mom?”

“I sure do, Floey, and you have learned a lot. Everyone agrees that you are our best caregiver of all.”

“Thanks, Mom. But let’s get back to your conversation yesterday. Why are you feeling bad about it?”

“Well, Floey, I should have told the person who cuts my hair (and the customer and hairdresser at the next chair who were listening to us) about how uplifting the practice of focusing on one special word for a year can be. Unlike when making a New Year’s resolution that you know will get broken before the end of the year, when you choose a special word, there can only be positive outcomes – the more you think about an inspiring word, the more inspired your life will be, even if you miss a few days of thinking about it. At least that’s been my experience in the six years I’ve been doing this.”

“One year, Mom, remember I chose a bad word. I chose the word MEOW because I was going to try to learn how to communicate better with the cats in the neighborhood. But the cats didn’t want to get to know me, so I eventually changed words. I borrowed your word of KINDNESS, and tried to be kind to those cats, even though they didn’t deserve it.”

“But even that worked out for good, Floey, because you focused on being KIND, and that enriched your life, didn’t it?”

“I guess so.”

“Anyway, I wish I’d taken the initiative yesterday to explain my approach of choosing a special word every year. Maybe the women in the salon would have liked to try out this practice for themselves.”

“Mom, tell me what you wished you had said to them. How did the word PEACE work out for you in 2018, and what’s your word for 2019? Is that what you wanted to tell them?”

“I guess so. One of the special things I did last year to deepen my understanding of PEACE was to look for all the hymns I could find with PEACE as the theme. I selected 16 of those hymns to include in my next book of hymn reflections. Dona Nobis Pacem, Let There Be Peace on Earth, Peace in the Valley, Make Me a Servant of Your Peace – those are just a few of the hymns that focus on the PEACE of God. I loved doing that study.”

“How about your word for this year?”

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“As I was thinking about what word to choose for this year, I realized that the themes of the four Sundays in Advent are HOPE, PEACE, JOY, and LOVE. I’ve already chosen three of the four themes. LOVE is the only one I haven’t focused on yet. The more I thought about it, I realized the most concise phrase that summarizes the nature of God is GOD IS LOVE. I guess it’s time I try to deepen my understanding of God’s LOVE. So LOVE is the word I chose for 2019.”

“That sounds like a good word for you this year. Do you know if Mim has chosen a word?”

“I think she said her word is going to be PATIENCE. We’ll have to ask her more about why she chose that word for this year when she gets home. How about you, Floey?”

“I chose the word LISTEN. I’m really good at listening sometimes, especially to our residents. But other times, I just block out voices and other noises I don’t want to be bothered with. I have such good ears, I should make better use of the gift of superior hearing that God has given me. I’ll listen for birds, chipmunks, music, the wind – whatever sounds are out there – maybe even for you when you call me to come…”

“Well that would be wonderful! As soon as I know that you listen well enough to always hear me when I call you to come, we can start going to the dog park!”

“That’s great! This is going to be a really good year!”

“You’re right, Floey. And thank you for listening to me now. Talking about what I wish I’d said yesterday makes me feel better. Thanks. You’re already a good listener. You’re off to a good start with your new word!”

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When and Why I gave up my Gun

 

Mom-Dad on stump

Mom and Dad

It was the summer of 1991. Mim and I were still living in Chicago, but we spent quite a bit of time in Cambridge that summer. It was the year my dad died, and we spent most weekends throughout the summer at the farmhouse, sorting through all my parents’ belongings. My mom had died five years earlier, and my dad had continued to live at the farmhouse. There had been no need to go through things after my mom’s death, so we had to go through everything in 1991.

It was during that summer that Mim and I decided to have my brother remodel the farmhouse into our dream house, and then we would sell our two-flat in Chicago and move to the farm. We had always dreamed of retiring on the farm, but in 1991 we made the decision to move to the farm while we were in the middle of our careers.

The following May the major remodeling project (gutting the house and doubling its size) was completed and we moved into our beautiful “new” century-old farmhouse.

 

 

Original House - 1992

Farmhouse – Before and After

WW NW

Back in the summer of 1991, as we were going through the house, divvying up things among my brother and sister and their kids and us, we came upon my dad’s 22-rifle that he had kept in the closet next to the kitchen door. He didn’t use the gun for hunting. He used it to scare away wild animals from the house – like raccoons and an occasional fox.

My brother said we should keep the rifle for the same reason. We might need it to scare away some pesky wild animals. Shooting the rifle at the sky would do the job.

22-rifle

That seemed like a good idea to me. I remember learning to shoot a 22-rifle when I was a kid and Danny bought his first real 22-rifle. We lined up tin cans on the fireplace at the edge of the lawn and took turns seeing how many we could hit from about 50 feet away. It was fun. Now I could picture Mim and me having a little target practice with tin cans when we were settled into our new home on the farm.

But then Mim overheard us talking and said in no uncertain terms, “We are not having a gun in our house!” One of my nephews was delighted to hear her comment. He immediately offered to take the gun off our hands. So, I gave it to him. It wasn’t worth fighting over.

Mim and I obviously had very different feelings toward guns. I grew up playing cowboys and Indians with Danny and my cousins. We played with toy pistols and rifles all the time. Then we graduated to BB guns and pellet guns, and finally a 22-rifle. I knew you had to be careful with real guns, but I basically viewed them as toys for shooting at targets and potentially tools for scaring off wild animals. (I never had any desire to hunt.)

Danny and Marian shooting with rifles cropped

Danny & Marian protecting their snowman with rifles.

Mim, on the other hand, saw guns as dangerous weapons. She didn’t play with toy guns as a kid. Her primary association with guns came from her job as a nurse in Chicago. She had to try to repair some of the damage done by real guns when she worked in a hospital emergency room. She had such a strong aversion to guns that she actually quit her job as a hospice nurse in Chicago when her employer’s solution to the problem of a nurse needing to go into a rough neighborhood alone in the middle of the night to care for a dying patient was to supply the nurse with an escort who carried a gun.

Obviously, Mim and I had completely different reactions to the prospect of keeping a gun in our farmhouse. Fortunately, we were able to quickly resolve our differences.

So, why can’t our country resolve our differences about gun ownership? I think the basic reason is really very simple. Each side refuses to acknowledge that the other side has some valid reasons behind their feelings and opinions.

7 HabitsOne of the best business books I ever read was The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. The major premise behind this book is that the way to be most effective is to really strive to understand the perspective of the person you disagree with. (I’ll admit I read the book about 40 years ago, but that’s what I remember most from it.)

There may be other factors that play into the gun controversy, but if everyone who holds a strong opinion on the matter would really try to understand, not necessarily agree with, but simply understand another perspective on the issue, there might be some hope for a good resolution, a reasonable compromise.

I’m sure that’s why Mim and I could quickly resolve our disagreement over keeping the 22- rifle. I understood how terrifying it would be for Mim to have a gun in the house. And I measured that fear against my need to protect us from wild animals. Also, I was sure I wouldn’t be able to engage Mim in shooting at tin cans even though I had briefly fantasized about it. Giving away the gun was a no-brainer. In reality, over the next 20-plus years, I would have needed the gun only once for protection, and in that case, I got my brother to come over with one of his guns to send the huge menacing snake in the asparagus patch to its final resting place.

I guess the gun controversy isn’t the only ongoing disaster our country is unable to resolve because of our inability to acknowledge the validity of different perspectives on the issues. Immigration. Gay marriage. Abortion. Global weather change. Freedom of religion. And on and on.

We need to learn to listen. And to understand each other. And to respect each other. These are the processes we need to value. Not who can shout the loudest. Or raise the most money to buy the most politicians.

We need to take out the earplugs, soften our voices, and listen. Especially this year, when the tendency will be to do just the opposite.

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